In a 4-3 decision, justices of the Montana Supreme Court remanded the case of Kent v. City of Columbia Falls to trial to be decided on its merits.
At its heart, this is a premises liability case. All other defendants aside from the local city government settled with plaintiff. Now, the primary question is whether the city is liable for negligent oversight of design and development of a subdivision where this tragic accident occurred. Initially, a trial court granted city's motion for summary judgment on the public duty doctrine, which holds government entities can only be held liable for individual injuries when there was a breach of duty owed to the individual, rather than the public-at-large. It's a tough hurdle because generally, the government owes a duty to the public, rather than individuals.
A number of states now refuse to recognize the public duty doctrine, but Alabama is not among them. The Kent case shows the tide may be turning within the courts.